April 5, 2023

Inaugural MHF Ladies Trek raises almost $300,000!!

By Kirralee Hughes

After several years of watching from afar and hearing Mark speak about all of the amazing destinations and special moments that had happened on the previous 6 MHF treks, I decided it was time to launch an all female MHF ladies trek. For so many reasons the timing was never right in the past,  but whatever forces brought this group of remarkable women together to trek to Tasmania in March and raise money for MHF I will be forever grateful. It was such an amazing experience and I know I speak on behalf of the 19 other ladies as well. 

Everyone on this trip put their hands up to help us change the shocking statistics about brain cancer through raising awareness and fundraising for greater research into brain cancer. For many, including myself there was a very personal connection for making this journey: 

I was walking for my husband Mark who was diagnosed nearly 10 years ago, and for the countless others who we have met since starting the foundation. Unfortunately many who are no longer with us, I walked for all of you.

Rebecca Scourfield, diagnosed with brain cancer in December 2020, came on this trek without knowing anyone and by the end of the 7 days was given Player of the Tour and awarded the now inaugural MHF Goblet – for being an absolute standout in every possible way. Bec’s resilience, determination and laughter made her a very special team member. “Having experienced the realities of brain cancer first hand I feel extremely grateful to be able to trek at all”, said Bec. Every trekker felt so very lucky to have been able to walk by Bec’s side as she marked off this milestone in her journey. 

Our very own MHF Ambassador, Anne Callander was trekking for her late husband Matt, who passed from brain cancer in 2017. Sadly for Anne, her brother Peter was also diagnosed with brain cancer 2 years ago so this trek had double the significance for Anne who was walking for 2 very special men in her life.

We were also lucky enough to meet Edwina Withers, who sadly lost her husband Andrew Towzell from brain cancer. Thank you, Edwina for allowing us into your life and sharing your brain cancer journey with us.

Shelby Walton and Lesleyanne Hoare took each step up the mountains for Shelby’s late husband and Lesleyanne’s brother, Ben Walton. Both these ladies did Ben so proud and I’m sure he was proudly looking down on them both, even maybe having a giggle at Shelby trying to manoeuvre over those boulders.

Grace Bates and Sarah McCarthy-Moore were walking for Grace’s late Dad and Sarah’s brother, Andrew Bates. Both these ladies were absolute champions as they marched up the mountains in Andrew’s honour. Despite some injuries for both, they never let that stop them from reaching the summit of all 3 mountains.  Two of the most resilient and amazing ladies I have ever come across.

Sisters, Emma Daniel and Katie Veltruski (Kitty), are two absolute legends who sadly lost their beautiful Mum to brain cancer in 2022.  “I do this trek not only for my Mum, but for every single person who is touched by brain cancer in the past and into the future. We are stronger together”, Kitty said.

A big thank you to Cassandra Griffin, our very own MHF funded Biobanking and Clinical Research Manager of Hunter Cancer Biobank who joined us on this trek and shared with us all how people’s samples of brain tissue and whole brain donations have been able to accelerate research into brain cancer. Cass, you are a shining star, albeit a little clumsy on the boulders though haha.

Every other trekker had their own special reasons for coming on this trek and supporting and raising funds for MHF and I will never be able to repay you all for choosing to come on this journey with us.

I can’t begin to tell you how many laughs and tears we all shared on this trek. Tears from hearing each other’s stories and from seeing those reach the summit who never thought they could make it. Laughter from someone’s clumsiness, snoring, farting or bad dance moves …. Of course I won’t name names but you know who you are lol…

I can personally look back now and laugh but the first night on Maria Island when I realised there was no hot water, only 1 freezing cold outdoor shower, no electricity at all in the camp site and that I was sleeping in a tent with rain forecasted….I was far from laughing!! My tent buddy and great friend, Kris Buderus thought it would be a great idea to pack some snack bags of nuts for the trek, but little did she realise the bandicoots can sniff out a peanut a mile away so while the rain and wind was bashing down our tent so were the army of bandicoots trying to claw their way into our tent for a feed! I clearly remember lying there at 1am on the most uncomfortable blow up pillow and these little claws scratching at our head attacking us through the tent. I questioned then and there on that very first night camping why the hell I had chosen to organise the ladies trek lol. It only crossed my mind for one second though I promise.

With every single trekker having zero sleep that first night from the very windy conditions we got up bleary eyed at the crack of dawn and began our first trek up Mount Maria. I think most of us can say that we really didn’t know the extent of the rocky boulders that awaited us. They were big… and never ending!! The climb to the summit was time consuming and tough. A big shout out to those ladies who either already had a fear of heights or those who found out really quickly on the day…..you could see the fear in their eyes as they clung on to each rock. What an amazing moment however when all 20 of us made it to the summit of Mount Maria. This wouldn’t have happened without the help and care from our amazing guides Jesse, Jason, Anika and Morgan from World Expeditions.

To Kitty and Emma, thank you for choosing this journey we had together to scatter your Mum’s ashes on the top of Mount Maria. What a special moment for you both to make it to the top and commemorate your Mum in such a beautiful way.

Day two began early as we headed to the summit of Mount Bishop and Clerk. Another big day of trekking for 8 hours at 620 metres above sea level. Don’t let anyone tell you the climb to the actual summit is easy!!! If you’re scared of heights then don’t even try. I was actually frozen at the top and did not move as a metre as to the right of me was a sheer cliff face that dropped straight into the ocean. We had lunch up there and I made sure I ate very fast so I could start the descent ASAP!

Now one moment that was just meant to be was while we were summiting Mt Bishop and Clerk we passed a group of young men and women. This young, Indigenous group had been selected as future leaders and were on the island to make new friendships, learn new skills and life lessons. Elder Uncle Ron started chatting to our group and we realised we were both staying at the campsite on Maria Island. Uncle Ron said they were holding a special ceremony that same night and invited us to join them.

I’m so glad we took up Uncle Ron’s offer. I can’t really put into words how special this night was but it’s something that we will never forget. From the amazing sounds played by Uncle Ron on the didgeridoo, his Dreamtime stories (boy did Uncle Ron love story telling haha) or getting introduced to the next generation of Indigenous leaders it was a magical night. None more special than when Bec, our very special brain cancer warrior, was invited up on stage for a healing ceremony. There was not a dry eye in the place.
Talk about coincidences, earlier that morning we had also met another brain cancer warrior, Mark who was travelling around Australia with his partner. He instantly connected with our group after hearing of us, and was also given a healing ceremony. We were so grateful to have heard of Mark’s own brain cancer journey and grateful for his donation along the way.

We departed Maria Island the next day, said goodbye to all of the friendly wombats on the Island and headed for Cradle Mountain.

I absolutely loved climbing Cradle Mountain. To see if off in the distance, I thought how are we ever going to get up that mountain?! It looked physically impossible and way beyond anything I have ever done before. But, we worked as a team, put one foot in front of the other, and almost 6 hours later reached the summit. The stillness and beauty of this mountain and surrounding landscape made for some special moments when we reached the top! There were lots of tears and hugs as we each embraced and thought about those we were walking for. This is what it’s all about and what these treks are made for. Together we can do anything!

We all climbed mountains way bigger than we expected, shared personal stories of triumph and tragedy but there was one more thing to tick off the itinerary before we headed home.

A night out in Launceston for the girls!!!! I’m not sure Launceston knew what hit it, but we all needed to let our hair down and celebrate the week that was. Heck, we even got matching tattoos in honour of the trek and as a constant reminder of those mountains that we did climb.

(Big thanks to Dave at The Tattoo Society for inking us all at such short notice).

What a whirlwind the past week has been. Did it really happen? Did I actually go on a trek, camp, sleep on a blow up pillow and mattress with bandicoots attacking me, summit three mountains, get tattooed in Launceston, and make special memories and lifelong friendships with 19 amazing ladies?!

I sure did and I won’t ever forget it.

Thank you so much to everyone who donated and supported us along the way. To raise just shy of $300,000 is incredible and testament to the calibre of ladies on the trek and our awesome supporters.

Huge thanks to our major sponsor the Lady Shake and other sponsors One Agency Lindy Harris, Laundy Hotels, the Travel Space and Flanagans Menswear & Corporate Specialists.

Special thank you to our beautiful MHF Photographer Emily Goldman who was there to capture the special moments on the trek. 

Thank you Huma Charity Challenge and our amazing guides Jesse, Jason, Anika and Morgan for keeping us safe, fed and smiling.

Thank you to Sharyn and Kasie from MHF for assisting us all with the fundraising and all your hard work in making the trek the success it was. Thank you also to Kris Buderus for keeping us all organised and on time throughout the trek. What a small but mighty team MHF are. 

Most of all, thank you to every single one of my amazing trek buddies:

Rebecca Scourfield, Anne Callander, Lesleyanne Hoare, Kate Hargreaves, Melony Lea, Jacinta Godden, Shelby Walton, Brooke Gidley, Grace Bates, Edwina Withers, Emma Daniel, Katie Veltruski, Lindy Harris, Emily Goldman, Cassandra Griffin, Sarah McCarthy-Moore, Danielle Lord, Millie Boyle, Kris Buderus.

Donate today & help beat brain cancer

Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in children, and adults aged under 40 in Australia, yet alarmingly very little is known about brain cancer, its causes or how it is treated.

That’s why we need your help. Every dollar helps in the fight against brain cancer. Your donation will go towards vital research to improve patient treatments and, hopefully, find a cure one day.

All donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.

Donate today, help beat brain cancer

Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in children, and adults aged under 40 in Australia, yet alarmingly very little is known about brain cancer, its causes or how it is treated.

That’s why we need your help. Every dollar helps in the fight against brain cancer. Your donation will go towards vital research to improve patient treatments and, hopefully, find a cure one day.

All donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.

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